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Challenging Conceptions: 2017 Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series

Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series features Professor Catherine Wilson’s research on how philosophers’ take on life according to nature is at odds with itself

With the connecting theme “how philosophy and science invade each other’s spaces, or try to invade each other spaces,” Professor Catherine Wilson launched the 2017 Gilbert Ryle lectures on March 14 before a packed Bagnani Hall audience. 

In her talk entitled Moral Theory After Darwin, Prof. Wilson outlined how life according to nature – life adapted to human needs, interests and capabilities independent of cultural variation – has been a staple belief of philosophers since ancient times. But morality, as German philosopher Immanuel Kent maintained, is a universal need, interest and capability that involves going against nature. Prof. Wilson offered a partial solution to this dichotomy by outlining the conception of the human moral platform presented by Darwin and elaborated since in light of anthropological and psychological research.

“Many writers share the assumption that the best sorts of lives will be those lived, and the best sorts of institutions will be those constructed, in accordance with what we can know,” said Prof. Wilson, adding, “A number of contemporary social theorists have insisted that we can get closer to understanding human nature and that this can be accomplished through the study of natural and social sciences.”

The anniversary professor of Philosophy at the University of York in England as well as a visiting professor of Philosophy in the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prof. Wilson is the author and editor of dozens of books and of articles on a wide variety of topics in the history of philosophy, the history of science and ethical theory. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, her delivery of the Gilbert Ryle lectures marks her first return to Canada in seven years.

As the 2016-17 Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series presenter, Prof. Wilson followed up her inaugural talk with two other public lectures  – The Way We Live Now and Life According To Nature respectively.

Established in 1977 by the Trent Philosophy Department, the Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series honours British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, who died in 1976.  The series has been presented every year but two since then.

Posted on March 22, 2017